I’m not a hero. However, many years ago, I was awarded the General Service Medal (GSM), because I served in a place of danger during my time in the Royal Air Force. I was never called upon to do anything particularly brave, although there were nervous times, nervous circumstances. The medal comes out twice a year, worn on my Royal Air Force blazer: Remembrance Day and Battle of Britain Day. It means a lot to me, if not to many others. Some day, one of my descendants will own it.
There will come a time, after the current world wide crisis, that citizens will realise dawn still breaks, that there are still seasons of the year, that birds sing and flowers bloom. Beaches will still be tide washed. Everyone, throughout the world, will breathe a sigh of relief. Then, we may forget the unassuming heroes who have kept us - and the rest of the world - going.
Now, there is water in our taps. Electricity continues to surge into our houses. We can cook. We have shelter. Doctors, paramedics and nurses labour to care for us. Food supplies are still available. Vulnerable children and the children of key workers go to school, with teachers and headteachers at work. In caring about the vulnerable, in caring for the vulnerable, they make themselves vulnerable. These are the people in the current front line. These are those biting the bullet, standing by their guns. Society, even a much reduced society continues to roll along. Perhaps that should be ‘limp’ along.
Afterwards, we may recall the names of Sir David Attenborough, of Greta Thunberg and Chris Packham and remember why we know them. Even Donald Trump might join the converted.
In April, 1942 the island and people of Malta were awarded the George Cross, for fortitude through isolation and attack during the Second World War. When the current crisis is over - and with patience and discipline, that time will come - there will be awards. Rightly or wrongly, there will be awards for those deemed to be worthy of Officer of the British Empire (OBE) and Member of the British Empire (MBE), joining the ranks of senior civil servants, actors, pop stars and those with sporting prowess.
When the dire threat of this virus has subsided, then may be the time to recognise those, who because of their responsibility and sense of duty, have put themselves at risk, continuing to serve the rest of society. Then, there should be a new order, automatically given to those who also serve. Not to those who over-shop, generating shortages for the genuine needy. Not for those who flee from their natural setting in their mobile homes trying to escape the virus and unwittingly, thoughtlessly taking it with them.
Not everyone can be ‘Sir’, ‘Lord’, ‘Lady’ or ‘Dame’. But it would be possible for those who have served on behalf of others through all this, to be awarded a token in acknowledgement, a medal to wear with pride and to pass down the generations, letters to put after their name, in thankfulness and remembrance.
It will take a more inspired, poetic mind than mine to suggest what those letters might be. I can suggest some limp ones, some more mundane: CO (Cared for Others); SF (Stood Fast); SV (Served the Vulnerable). Perhaps the Queen, isolating at Windsor has already thought of initiating this. Possibly Boris Johnson, earnestly addressing the public from number 10 Downing Street, is currently too busy to do so. But we shouldn’t forget. Under any circumstances.